Our Pastor


REV. JOEL R. KURZ (2007 - Present)

Pastor Joel R. Kurz accepted the call to serve Bethlehem in 2007 and is glad to be a servant of Christ in this place .Born in Tennessee, Joel was raised in the Philippines, Missouri, and Texas. He earned a B.A. in English from The College of the Ozarks in 1992, then spent a year studying Greek and Hebrew while working at Bethesda Lutheran Home in Watertown, Wisconsin. Prior to receiving his M.Div. in 1997 from Concordia Theological Seminary (Ft. Wayne, Indiana), he was a congregational intern in Baltimore, Maryland, and Pensacola, Florida. He served as pastor of Concordia Lutheran in Youngstown, Ohio, until 2001. During a six-year hiatus from full-time parish ministry Joel was a caregiver for his father (a retired pastor) and did part-time parish supply. In addition to his ministry at Bethlehem Pastor Joel is actively involved in the Warrensburg Ministerial Association, the Johnson County Emergency Care Coalition, the Johnson County CROP Hunger Walk, the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, and the Regional Health Care Free Clinic. He often can be found in Bethlehem’s community herb and vegetable gardens as well as in the newly developing nature trail at the back of the property. Joel is a board member of With God’s Little Ones (a St. Louis-based agency ministering to the needs of vulnerable widows and orphans around the world) and is also a support-team member of the Kyosiga Community Christian Association for Development in Uganda. Joel is the author and editor, along with Dr. C. George Fry, of four published books of religious biography. His poetry and essays have appeared in journals including The Cresset, Concordia Journal, Sojourners, Weavings, and Worship. Special joys for him are traveling and connecting with people, reading and writing, gardening and cooking, hiking and biking, and listening to a wide array of music—especially live.

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